By Ariama C. Long
Monifa Bandele is the senior vice president and chief strategy officer at MomsRising, a national grassroots organization focused on reproductive justice for moms, women, and families.
Bandele is a Crown Heights native in Brooklyn, NY. She credits her interest in healthcare and policy to her mother and grandmother. Her mother led a local Women Infants & Children (WIC) office as a social worker in Brooklyn, and her grandmother was a pioneering nurse in Pittsburgh that developed a program to increase the number of Black nurses. Her father was a social worker as well.
“So very early on I got to see how important it was to have support systems for women, children and families and just the role that played in helping to stabilize a lot of mothers in the community,” said Bandele.
Bandele was a national field director for the Right to Vote Campaign at the Brennan Center for Justice before joining MomsRising. She’s been with the organization for 11 years, she said.
Currently, the group is focusing on getting legislation passed like the Pump Act, which protects working moms who breastfeed their children, and the Black Maternal Health ‘Momnibus’ Act of 2021, a package of bills meant to address the racism and inequities in healthcare that Black and brown birthing people face.
“The U.S. has one of the highest maternal death rates in the developed world, and right inside of that, Black women and Indigineous women die at 3-4 times the rate of white women just giving birth,” said Bandele. “We are constantly working on these issues both on the state and the federal level.”
Bandele said that it’s also surprising that people assume the MomsRising group’s advocacy work doesn’t include abortion rights. Abortion rights help mothers plan their families, care for their own bodies and health, and their financial situation.
“Most women who seek abortions are already mothers. This is a mom issue,” said Bandele. “We’re about justice and equity for moms. They should be able to make these choices themselves and determine what’s happening with their bodies.”
MomsRising helped to get New York City’s recent legislation on maternal health passed through their advocacy work, said the organization. Mayor Eric Adams signed off on seven maternal health bills designed to empower moms and ensure their safety by educating people about maternal mortality and morbidity, ending pregnancy related discrimination, expanding doula training programs, and providing sexual and reproductive health services, among other things.
This week, Bandele is raising awareness around ‘Black Breastfeeding Week’ to promote breastfeeding among hard working Black moms, who are least likely to breastfeed because of their jobs or affordability.
“In order to breastfeed you have to have leave from work. You have to have lactation consultants. And you have to have the economic security, that you can take the time and establish breastfeeding,” said Bandele. “And that’s what some of the founders of breastfeeding week are breaking down.”
Bandele currently lives in Bed Stuy with her husband and two daughters.
Ariama C. Long is a Report for America corps member and writes about culture and politics in New York City for The Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by clicking here: bit.ly/amnews1